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Wednesday, July 30 2014 @ 05:03 AM EDT

Director of Customs Threatens to Destroy Cargo Passing Through the Panama Canal

Canal Daily OperationPanama's Director General of the National Customs Authority, Gloria Moreno de Lopez, is leading a raid on the Panama Canal area to check the movement of two ships - one going from Iran to Colombia and another from Israel to the United States - that are carrying the toxic diethylene glycol without the property security measures. The official was blunt and said if they do not comply with the security measures then they will not pass through Panama, the substance will be destroyed, and the embassies of the United States and Colombia will be warned. "Considering that diethylene glycol is a volatile substance that has to be transferred under certain conditions, in a refrigerated container, which it is not, we come to see something that endangers the Panama Canal, and if this is so we are not going to let it pass," she said. (La Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Political grandstanding. Back in 2006 hundreds (if not thousands) of Panamanians were killed due to diethylene glycol (DEG) poisoning - because they drank it. DEG is sweet to the taste and it's a whole lot cheaper to produce. Unscrupulous bastards in China switched the materials and sold the DEG as "glycerin" - a food product used to make things sweet. This was a national tragedy, and now the Director General of the National Customs Authority, Gloria Moreno de Lopez, is exploiting the fact that a couple of boats carrying DEG through the Panama Canal to attempt to score political points for the government of Ricardo Martinelli. It's probably going to backfire, and here's why.

If It's Fire, Safety or Chemistry, Ask Dad: My father is a friggin' genius when it comes to things related to fire, safety, chemistry, or any combination therein. I mean, he's a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. When I ran into this article I called him up and we had a conversation about the "volatility" of DEG. He said it is "amazingly non-volatile" and then went on to quote a whole string of numbers, math, and temperatures. If you're into the chemistry check out this document but for us normal people, here's the bottom line. You can have a bottle of DEG in a room, and there's no danger whatsoever. You can have an open container of DEG in a room, and it's not giving off any fumes. In order to get the stuff hot enough to be dangerous, the heat will kill you before the fumes do. In other words, you have to "ingest" the material in order for it to be dangerous - drink, inhale, or absorb through the skin. And it does NOT have to be transported in a refrigerated container. DEG passes through the Panama Canal practically every day. As the Director of Customs, Moreno probably doesn't have any authority over the shipments because they are just passing through the Panama Canal and are not being imported into Panama. She's not responsible for the handling of Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) on the Panama Canal. And what's more, the next ship will probably contain some other industrial materials that are much more "volatile" than DEG - but that's no where as politically sensitive to Panamanians. The bottom line is that if Moreno overreacts and plays some kind of a trump card for political expediency, then the international community who uses the Panama Canal on a daily basis are going to kick her in the proverbial nuts. Mark my words...

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